The 2006 Iowa Legislature failed to enact pro-business legislation that many lawmakers and Governor Vilsack had said was a priority. For example, legislators tried but failed to come up with a system that would allow small businesses to merge into a state-run “pool” that would help the businesses buy less expensive health insurance policies.
John Gilliland, senior vice president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, says it’s disappointing. “Health insurance is a big issue for our members,” Gilliland says. With Wisconsin passing a law that does allow small businesses to join a statewide pool to get cheaper health insurance and efforts underway in other states, Gilliland predicts the pressure will be back on next year for Iowa lawmakers to act.
“Legislators need to start thinking about everyone’s perspective, where they’re coming from and really think who it is they want to serve,” Gilliland says. “Do they want to serve the Iowans who are the users of our health care system who we want to have adequate insurance coverage? I think that’s the number one constituency that needs to be heard.”
House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, is one of the lawmakers who back in January promised action on this front. “There were a lot of good things that were accomplished this session, but sometimes there are disappointments,” Rants says. Rants says Iowa’s insurance industry — a key component of the economy — defeated all attempts to enact “meaningful” legislation that would help small businesses join with one another to make a large pool of employees in order to obtain cheaper health insurance. “We tried,” Rants. “Unfortunately, the insurance industry defeated us.”
The Republican-led House also passed a bill that sought some limits on the property taxes that businesses pay, but the Senate — equally divided between Democrats and Republicans — never took the bill up. Businesses complain their property taxes have gone up significantly more over the past two decades compared to the property tax rates assessed on homes and farms.